During past recessions, collective action among laid-off workers was common. Will this financial crisis foster a similar movement?
At last count, conservatively speaking, 13.2 million Americans were unemployed, and according to Paul Krugman, we can expect the numbers to keep rising through 2010. The spirit-crushing reality of those figures has led several commentators to pen editorials bemoaning the passive state of the American worker. While laid-off French workers bossnap (kidnap their bosses) and the Chinese Commerce Minister warns of unemployment-related unrest, Americans have exhibited few signs of protest.
It hasn’t always been this way. During the Great Depression, the unemployed — often led by political radicals — engaged in militant action. They restored gas heating to those who could no longer afford it, reinstated broke families in their homes, and pressed government for more aid. In 1975, the Philadelphia Unemployment Project was launched in order to organize the poor and unemployed. But where is such outrage and organization today?